March has brought the introduction of the Governor’s proposed biennium (every two-years) budget for 2012-2013. Ohio faces a $6-8 billion shortfall caused by the expiration of one-time money used to buoy the last budget cycle. This month’s Roundup highlights some points of interest from that budget and provides an update on legislative and regulatory happenings at the Statehouse.

Pending Legislation

Senate Bill 22. Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), requiring Ohio EPA to consider new factors to before issuing a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, was heard in the Ohio Senate this month. That chamber passed the measure on March 9. The bill is in the House of Representatives and awaiting assignment to a committee as of press-time.

New Legislation

House Bill 72. Representative Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont) introduced a companion bill to Senate Bill 22. The House version has been referred to House Health and Aging Committee where it awaits a hearing.

House Bill 153. House Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) introduced the placeholder bill for the Biennial Budget. Hearings on the Executive Budget proposal began on March 16 with actual budget language expected within ten days. Governor Kasich released his summary document of proposed budget items in what is called the "Bluebook" released on March 15. Changes are likely as it moves through the legislature. Changes to distribution of the Kilo-watt Hour Tax receipts and the Natural Gas Consumption Tax are proposed from the current breakdown to a shift more towards the General Revenue Fund. Several energy-related programs that currently receive funding from liquor profit bonds that are issued under Chapter 166 (Economic Development Programs) of the Revised Code may be affected by the proposal to lease Ohio's liquor sales to the newly created JobsOhio.

Senate Bill 78. Lakewood Senator Michael Skindell (D) introduced a bill to ban drilling for oil and natural gas under Lake Erie. The bill has been referred to Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where it awaits a first hearing.

Senate Bill 108. Senator Kris Jordan (R-Powell) introduced a bill to create a board to facilitate lease arrangements for oil and natural gas drilling on state-controlled land, including parks. The bill received sponsor testimony by Senator Jordan this month where he cited the state’s tough economic climate as a factor in introducing his legislation.